Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary staff is assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma to our underwater environment. The Category 4 storm caused serious damage on land and, undoubtedly, created changes in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys. Assessments of the impacts to sanctuary resources are being coordinated with local and state governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic research and monitoring partners.
We are also working with Monroe County, the State of Florida, the US Coast Guard, and other agencies involved in recovery and cleanup efforts in the Florida Keys. Sanctuary staff strive to ensure that this work can occur quickly and efficiently while protecting sensitive marine resources from further impact. This includes providing emergency permits or authorizations, as needed, to address time-sensitive response activities such as derelict vessel and debris removal, navigational surveys, and similar work. We also will continue to enlist our longstanding partners to address the variety of impacts, pressures and threats to the Florida Keys ecosystem and our community.
We urge caution for those going on and in the water. Many waterways are littered with sunken boats and other debris. Familiar channels may no longer be navigable, while other areas may have become deeper. Mariners should be extra vigilant when navigating nearshore waters.
Sarah Fangman, Superintendent
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary